The Talented – Rejina Pyo

When summed up in fairly few number of words, the story of fashion designer Rejina Pyo might appear nearly identical as any other young and talented designer’s biography. Born abroad (Korea) and currently living in London, after graduation at Central Saint Martins, Pyo worked alongside Roksanda Ilincic before establishing her own brand. Nevertheless, in only three years after her graduation, Pyo collaborated with H&M-owned high-fashion store Weekday to sell pieces from her graduate collection, participated in the “ARRRGH! Monsters in Fashion” exhibition curated by Vassilis Zidianakis, won the prestigious Han Nefkens Fashion Award and created an installation for the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen in Rotterdam.

In the meantime, Rejina Pyo has also managed to develop several collections under her name, characterized by clean lines, geometrical detailing and a particularly sophisticated allure. It shouldn’t come as a surprise then, that the structural element in Pyo’s work derives from her obsession with abstract art – paintings by Ellsworth Kelly or Isamu Noguchi’s sculptures – with its simple, primitive aesthetics and blocks of colour. Pyo’s work somewhat explores the blurred lines between art and fashion, creating pieces that are often sculptural and bold, an approach that was particularly evident in her installation in Rotterdam, where Pyo created pieces resembling traditional garments, though none of them were wearable.

Her latest AW 2014 collection further explores this approach. By taking inspiration from Ellisworth Kelly’s words – “I think that if you can turn off the mind and look only with the eyes, ultimately everything becomes abstract” – Pyo has developed a collection where “each garment is used almost as a canvas for an abstract painting, streamlined and minimal in places, and then brought to life with a flash of strong colour in the form of diagonal square panels that act as a unifying theme, reappearing in various sizes throughout the collection. From the belt in an elegantly oversized coat, that cleverly weaves its way around the garment, to the panel of faux fur used in a dark blue evening sweater and the stunning hand painted shard of colour on the shoulder of a white shirt.”

Rujana Rebernjak 
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Carla Fernandez: The Barefoot Designer

In our fast paced society, which strives to deliver new trends quickly, the craftsmanship and heritage underlining the production of many garments are slowly falling into oblivion. Nevertheless, whatever pace our society runs at, we somehow manage to find enough time to admire beauty: a beauty that leads us to understand meaning inherent in any type of production, that guides passions and ideas; a beauty that can also be seen as a quest for identity by its creator. This is the case of Carla Fernandez, a contemporary Mexican designer whose work aims to preserve her country’s rich textile heritage by merging traditional techniques with unique contemporary creations.

Traditional Mexican patterning is an intricate system of pleats and seams that creates an almost endless range of garments by using simple squares and rectangles. Carla Fernandez and her Taller Flora depart from this, as of yet largely unexplored, use of traditional techniques to create innovative styles and develop new types of production in line with the contemporary fashion world. Fernandez’s workshop, Taller Flora, a traveling fashion laboratory, collaborates with local Mexican artisans with the idea of preserving and disseminating native knowledge and talent that would otherwise risk of being forgotten.

The innovation of Carla Fernandez’s work lies not only in her anthropological or historical interest in traditional crafts, but within her capability of developing a successful enterprise where fashion industry and handmade crafts coexist. Born after 10 years of research spent cataloguing hundreds of garment designs, including ancient Mayan and Aztec as well as pre-Hispanic ones, Taller Flora collaborates with different communities throughout Mexico – mostly cooperatives of women – to deliver two different lines of clothing: couture to accommodate the slower techniques, and a prêt-a-porter line of mass-produced items using these designs and motifs.

Fernandez’s work strives to bring back the attention to the single creator in order to understand what is being created, highlighting the beauty of individual pieces and the joy in producing them, while, at the same time, articulating a production model where traditional crafts can actually compete with the modern technical world.

After showing her pieces in London, San Francisco, Japan, Colombia, and Mexico, Carla Fernandez’s work is currently the subject of the first fashion exhibition at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston. Titled “Carla Fernandez: The Barefoot Designer”, the show includes apparel, textiles and drawings, as well as performances, workshops and photographs, vividly delivering the intricate design process behind Fernandez’s work. The exhibition will be on show until September 1st 2014.

Victoria Edman 
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Visiting Villa Necchi in Milan

Last week we have had the chance to visit Villa Necchi Campiglio, one of the four historic house museums in Milan. All situated on different locations, more or less around the centre of Milan, the four houses are guarded by FAI – Fondo Ambiente Italiano, the Italian National Trust, devoted to the promotion of Italy’s natural heritage, art, history and traditions. The four historic residences, all built between the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century, by noble milanese families which collected objects, artworks and furniture, are still preserved with their original furnishings and are currently open to the public.

Surrounded by old trees in a calm, yet pretty, central district, the location of the house appeared to be particularly attractive for its owners, sisters Gigina and Nedda Necchi and Angelo Campiglio, exponents of the lombard industrial bourgeoisie. Villa Necchi Campiglio was built during 1932-1935 by famous Italian architect Piero Portaluppi, and subsequently Tomaso Buzzi who will give the villa a more classic and monumental appeal. Conceived as a stylish yet comfortable and modern architecture in both style and equipment, the house was equipped with an elevator dumbwaiter, inter comps and telephones and even a heated swimming pool.

Still preserved in an excellent condition, the house’s architecture, decorative arts, furnishings and collections expresses harmony whole the high living standard of living of its owners. Important to mention are pieces like a Field desk by Bottega di Giovanni Socci from the first quarter of the 19th century or the Centrepiece with Fish (1930-1935) by Alfredo Ravasco. Two major art donations enrich the visit: the collection of paintings and decorative arts of the Eighteenth century by Alighiero De’ Micheli and a collection of the important milanese gallerist Claudia Gian Ferrari. The collection, donated to the Foundation before her death, consists of forty-four paintings, drawings and sculptures of Italian artists from the early Twentieth century.

Villa Necchi Campiglio is open from Wednesday to Sunday from 10am – 6pm, at Via Mozart 14, Milan.

Images and words by Agota Lukyte 
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The Evolution of the Bra

Have you ever asked yourself about the very first bra? The underwear garment that was the cause of feminist fights for decades, saw its first appearance back in 1913. It was initially designed by Mary Phelps Jacob, enjoying, only a year after its creation, quite a lot of success.

In a more recent fashion history, the relationship between underwear and design cannot be understood without mentioning Vivienne Westwood. The mother of punk movement in fashion was the one who coined, back in the 80s, the statement “underwear over outerwear” as a sign of rebellious attitude and ferocious female protests, first seen in her Buffalo Girls collection. Westwood’s attitude and design could easily be linked with a more recent collection my Miuccia Prada. For her SS 2014 runway, “the intellectual fashion designer”, as Prada is often reffered to, created a decorated bra styled over coats, T-shirts and dresses.

Nevertheless, during the last fashion shows, many designers have sent their models down the catwalk wearing bras, with apparently no particular underlying meaning, other then their aesthetic appeal. We are not talking simply about crop-tops, but actual bras, which has become a symbol of femininity – meant to be shown rather than hidden. Michael Kors chose a vintage look – a strapless top paired with a longuette skirt – where the printed motif underlines a certain kind of elegance while the high waist silhouette emphasizes the body’s shapes.

Dolce&Gabbana took a different kind of approach: linked to the past of Magna Grecia, for the SS 2014 collection the Italian brand showcased a particular kind of lingerie matched with pointed pumps and big gold earrings. On the other hand, Ports 1961 and Alexander McQueen, have imagined a different kind of woman: an evident sports vibe for the first one, with tight straps and coco leather cup; an optical pattern and constricted shapes for the other.

However, a bra as an actual piece of clothing is not something anyone can wear: if you aren’t aiming for a particularly bold feminist statement, styling a bra might prove to be a though challenge.

Francesca Crippa 
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Rediscovering Design: Giulio Cittato

The history of modernist graphic design in Italy is usually remembered through the work of designers like Massimo Vignelli, Bob Noorda or Max Huber, whose clean lines, bold imagery and timeless style left a profound mark on the culture of design. Nevertheless, Italian modernist design history conceals a far more rich scenario, populated by personalities like Giulio Cittato, whose story is, unfortunately, often overlooked.

Giulio Cittato’s first encounter with the design world begins in Venice, his hometown, in the 1960s, as a student in Industrial Design. One of his notable professors, who would become his mentor, confidant and, most of all, a dear friend, was Massimo Vignelli. Vignelli describes young Cittato as an extremely passionate and dedicated designer, completely absorbed by modernist design’s theoretical premises and practical approach. Vignelli writes about Cittato’s work: “As his teacher, I was particularly happy to correct and guide his work, since he was passionate about the approach towards design I was trying to transmit. He understood, shared and absorbed our visual language and thoughts, elaborating on that same language in his own personal way, while, at the same time, eliminating the unnecessary kitsch.”

After Cittato’s graduation, it was Vignelli who offered him a place at Unimark International’s offices in Chicago, where his visual language, philosophy and methodology would be marked by the studio’s bold intention to subvert the rules of the US corporate market by introducing design projects which would be honest, objective, informative and clear. It was 1970 and from that moment on Giulio would create some of his most memorable designs, among which the visual identity projects for companies like Bergamin, Coin, CCA, Varian Electronics, Agos, and ACTV would always stand out. It was the visual identity and signage project for ACTV, the Venetian public transport company, which would crown Cittato as one of the most significant Italian designers. In a particularly difficult context – such as the Venetian lagoon, with is peculiar dynamics and needs – Cittato, inspired by the work of his mentors Vignelli and Noorda, created a system which remained largely in use until only a couple of years ago.

Unfortunately, Giulio Cittato’s talent remains largely undiscovered today, mostly due to his short career, abruptly interrupted by premature death. Vignelli wrote about the loss of his student and friend: “Giulio Cittato was pervaded by an extraordinary enthusiasm, by an infinite will to work, to throw himself into important projects, to confront his work with that of the most talented international designers. I have thought more than once that Giulio was destined to empty all his knowledge, his life and his energy at once, quickly, with endless vehemence and talent. Sometimes I think of him as Tancredi, the great Venetian artist who died young, too, depriving us of his talent forever. Cittato is undoubtedly the greatest loss for our profession in Italy, and we are reminded of the intensity of his extraordinary life, that profoundly hurts today as ever.”

Rujana Rebernjak 
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Style Suggestions: Spring Jackets

Spring is that wonderful time of year when you can finally shed your heavy coat in favor of a lightweight jacket. But which one should you choose? Whether you prefer basic blazers, rugged denim versions or a leather biker jacket, there are a ton of options on the market right now and here are some ideas to get you through the next couple of months.

Jacket: J.Crew, Boots: Alexander Wang, Bag: Anya Hindmarch, Earrings: Alexis Bittar, Cuff: Eddie Borgo

Styling by Vanessa Cocchiaro 

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Minor White | Beyond Appearances

Even if his name doesn’t sound familiar to a wider audience, Minor White (Minneapolis 1908 – Boston 1976) was without a doubt one of the most important photographers and popularizers of his time, who shaped and influenced more than one generation of great photographers. Thanks to an extraordinary technical ability, a deep passion for poetry and unusually sharp receptiveness, White was able to go beyond forms of nature, capturing their secrets and turning their appearance, giving them a visionary aspect, which transcends pure reality.

Captured through an almost mystical approach, White’s photos of landscapes, still life and close ups – often characterized by uneasiness and mystery – open numerous interpretations and free associations that seem to be related to the dream. Looking at his photos, most of the time it’s hard to fully understand the subjects and the viewers are caught and singled out to take on the assignment of making sense of his works.

The natural element is always present, but its metamorphosis can give birth to new perspectives, creating something completely different, apparently hidden before being captured on camera. The figurative parts are instrumental in triggering a phantasmagoric process that leads to abstraction. White’s photography is personal and introspective with different levels of interpretation, which vary from analytical observation of pure shapes to the universal research of truth. His photography has nothing to do with objectivity.

Though maintaining a strict control of the image in course of printing that separates his work from abstract expressionism and, at the same time, keeping distance from randomness of composition typical of European surrealism which reached the States together with its main representatives during the Second World War, White’s work and poetics were undoubtedly influenced by the cultural climate of the US at the time. Those were the years when photography and art grew closer, with the former starting to be truly conceived as a field of the latter, rather than simply a minor form of expression.

Monica Lombardi 
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Design of surfaces or superficial design?

The relationship between design and decoration is like the motion of a pendulum: sometimes it swings towards an intense complicity, sometimes towards rejection. Let’s think of all the major stages in design history: from Morris to Loos, from rationalism to Radicals, this tension has always been considered as a powerful indicator of any incoming weltanshaung.

Today, the interest in the potential of a surface seems to be increasing. Let’s think about wallpapers as a paradigmatic case study: more and more common in every imaginable interior, they are now the test bench of new collaborations between unsuspected designers and producers. Generally appreciated for its understated and conceptual touch, Maison Margiela has recently launched a new collection for the Belgian brand Omexco with the aim of reinterpreting the genre through uninhibited experimentations with colors and images. Studio Job chose wallpapers as well, as a way to magnify surfaces and marginalize furniture. Worldwide known for an original decorative attitude which spans from cartoon-like language to surrealism, for the latest Salone del Mobile, the Flemish duo has opened up its own archives of drawings, icons, and patterns in order to recreate a hypnotic wallpaper limbo for the Dutch company NLXL.

However, even sophisticated research couldn’t resist to take on the issue of surfaces and coverings. “La Casa Morbida”, an exhibition curated by Beppe Finessi in the Milanese Pezzoli Poldi palace, has explored the ways furniture is transforming our domestic environments into a soft cocoon. But couldn’t the show be renamed as “La Casa Rivestita” [“the upholstered house”]? In fact, the common thread among the pieces has nothing to do with a concept, a function or an expected final user, but with the shared use of textiles as a way of recreating a private, reassuring universe.

At the same time, the Rijksmuseum by Droog exhibition – on show during the Salone del Mobile days, too – produced similar results starting from different premises: the final result of a research undertaken within the vast visual universe of a major Dutch museum was once again a project examining appealing, decorative surfaces, and not an investigation into new, unpredicted areas and ideas.

Nevertheless, the true apotheosis of this return to surface is a mania for Nathalie Du Pasquier’s textile designs from the ‘80s. Former member of the Memphis group now devoted to painting, Du Pasquier has recently been transformed into a hype phenomenon from both fashion and design companies. American Apparel and Hay, in fact, have sensed the renewed appeal of her geometric patterns and didn’t hesitate to recover its design with very little effort put in their transformation or restyling.

It is impossible not to wonder, then, if the comparison with the ideological fervour of the radical movement isn’t to harsh for our current design world. Isn’t the current Memphis revival an unconscious attempt to anaesthetize ideas and ideologies from that time? Surface, in the ‘80s, was definitively a way to go beyond conventions and bourgeois “good taste”. Nowadays, it just seems transformed into a vintage convention: with no strong beliefs, no challenge or claim, but just as way to reassure a trendy status quo.

Giulia Zappa 
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Kenta Matsushige Wins this Year’s Hyères Festival

An the end of April 2014, the 29th Hyères International Festival of Fashion & Photography was held at Villa Noailles in the south of France. The main focus of the annual festival is to spotlight and honor new talents in the fields of fashion, architecture, design and photography, and this year’s edition was no exception.

The Hyères Festival has a long tradition of awarding up-and-coming designers: former winners and contesters are top designers such as Viktor & Rolf, Matthew Cunnington and Sandra Backlund. This year, the winner of the Première Vision Grand Jury Prize, is the Japanese designer, Kenta Matsushige. After graduating from the Chambre Syndicale de la Couture Parisienne in 2012 the young designer is now living and working in Paris. Kenta Matsushige says that the aim of her project was to create a urban and modern collection whilst respecting hinabi – the pastoral beauty – which is in opposition to miyabi – urban beauty. The winning collection was therefore inspired by his home country – the architecture of Japanese museums, the peace and the traditions of the countryside.

Matsushige and nine other talented participants of the Première Vision Grand Jury Prize-competition, showed their work on a catwalk in front of the public and this year’s jury, led by the creative directors of Kenzo, Carol Lim and Huberto Leon, together with actress Chloë Sevigny and the InStyle USA Fashion Director Eric Wilson, who crowned Kenta Matsushige the winner of this year’s top prize, giving him the opportunity to show his upcoming collection at next year’s edition of the festival. A second part of Matsushige´s prize is the opportunity to work with the French artisan organization Ateliers des Métiers d’Art, which will finance the development of five looks created by the young designer. Kenta Matsushige’s future looks to be as bright as that of other former winners of the Hyères Festival and we are looking forward to seeing what he will do next.

Hanna Cronsjö 
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Library in the Aisle

On the quiet island of San Giorgio Maggiore, in front of San Marco square in Venice sits the Giorgio Cini Foundation, an institution whose mission is to promote the redevelopment of the monumental complex on San Giorgio and encourage the creation of educational, social, cultural and artistic institutions in its surrounding territory. In the last decade, the foundation has transformed the old Benedictine dormitory, known as “Manica Lunga” and originally built by Giovanni Buora at the end of ’400, into a modern and functional library that houses more than 150,000 volumes. The “long wing” is an extraordinary space: in the course of time it has housed monks’ cells, military accommodation, public dormitories and classrooms.

The restorative intervention was developed by architect Michele De Lucchi, who won an international design competition in 2005, transforming the old cells in reading and working areas. The restoration project of the long wing involved the creation of shelving systems both on the ground floor and an added balcony, with reception, workstations for multimedia material, lounge areas, meeting and conference rooms all placed on the ground floor, together with a recovered treasure room, office of the curator and cells used for archival purposes. With over 1400 meters of shelving, including 1000 open shelves, the new long wing is now the heart of the History of Art library complex at Giorgio Cini Foundation.

“What used to be a large living room was transformed into a library taking inspiration from Longhena – explains Michele De Lucchi – with open shelving covering the whole extent of long walls, while tables for consultation occupy the room’s the centre. A second level was added to the space with a balcony easily accessed by stairs placed on northern and southern sides of the central transept. The supporting structure and the shelves are made of metal. The perspective effect is amplified by adding a second line leading to the horizon, without further charging the visual impact of the room.”

The small doors of the monastery cells were additionally framed with wooden portals, which both support the balcony of the second level and add a curious visual appearance to the portals, where a smaller door seems to be inscribed within a larger one. The central space is thus left empty and plain, with only a few long tables left for consultation: other reading space, together with meeting, conference and event rooms can be found inside the cells.

The cells oriented towards Bacino di San Marco host the library’s service functions: librarian’s offices and consultation tables are placed in the central area for obvious reasons of safety and control. The cells are all similarly conceived, leaving the original monastic effect intact, even though they are variously connected according to different needs. Many walls of the cells are covered with shelving as well, leaving only doors and passages bare. The shelves arranged around each room aid a feeling of historical continuity and environmental unity to the space, while also maintaining the architecture’s static balance, since all the weight is placed against the walls.

The lighting of the new long wing was designed following the criteria of “territoriality” – adding light only where needed and avoiding direct light that precludes the concentration and study. The LED lighting adopted for the shelving is integrated directly into furnishings, concealing the fire extinguishing system, leaving a comfortable solution for consultation and reading. The restoration of the “Manica Lunga” is a particularly correct project in all of its aspects, respecting both the monastic history of the space, as well as calibrating functional and architectural additions with maniacal attention to details. Starting from an existing space of extreme quality, De Lucchi has succeeded in giving a new functional and cultural life to an architecture that otherwise would not be easily accessible.

Words and photos by Giulio Ghirardi 


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